Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Clothe Men’s Necks: Collars Past, Collars Today and, Perhaps, Tomorrow
Rudolph H. Weingartner

   Fashions of clothes have changed through history and they differ from one region of the globe to another.  Perhaps more attention is paid to the fashions of women, at least in contemporary Western society, but men’s fashions change as well, if not as much nor always as obviously.  Of the huge topic of evolving fashions in clothes I  want only to focus on one tiny aspect of male attire: how fashion treats a man’s throat, the region above the shoulders and below the chin.  I want to deal with this topic because I believe that something has gone wrong there in that men’s fashion has not kept up with changes of men’s customary public behavior.  I will spell this out after an overview of how clothes have dealt with those male necks.
   So what’s the problem?  One problem designers of clothes must solve is how a garment should be brought to an aesthetically satisfactory close below the face which of course remains uncovered.  To be sure, this issue does not really arise for countless fashions of the past practices nor for numerous parts of the world in our own time.  These many and widespread styles all exemplify a simple principle: whatever covers the body from the bottom of the garment goes all the way to the neck without changing.  The throat or, speaking geographically, the top of the garment, does not get special treatment.  Versions of this style are prevalent historically and contemporaneously, with much variety in the shape of the covering and, even more, in the textures, patterns and colors of the garments’ fabrics.  Togas and kaftans—each type coming in many different styles—are just two examples [see fig. 1 and 2].

But there are also many styles—again varying considerably depending on time and place—that pay special attention  to the throat, serving both as a special ornament and a sharper break between the body’s covering and the uncovered face.  Elaborate lace collars are examples, beautifully depicted in Dutch paintings by Rembrandt and Frans Hals among others [see fig. 3 and 4]. 

Indeed, there are quite different fancy traditions, both aristocratic and bourgeois, with throat ornamentation of considerable variety, even just staying in Europe [see fig. 5 and 6].

   When we get to the Victorian period, the modern tie in its various manifestations makes its appearance, with subsequent changes less dramatic than those that have gone before [ fig. 7 and 8].

Ignoring formal wear, the two most prevalent types of ties are the long tie, both ends of which come down to the waist
 [see fig. 9].

 (I measured one of my nice ones: it is a whopping 60” or 152cm.)  I call it the “long” tie, since what it is actually named calls for an explanation that it doesn’t really get.  Its name is the Four in Hand tie, “possibly inspired by the knots used by coachmen to tie off the reins of their horses.”  The other prevalent tie is the bow tie, which, like the four in hand, comes in a great many shapes and in an endless (literally) variety of patterns and colors [see fig. 10].

   These ties became a well-nigh universal male accessory: look at some photos, a few decades old, of a gathering of men and you will find that just about everyone has a hat on his head and is wearing a tie [see fig. 11]. 

So far I have been unable to get that picture to show up here, though I haven't given up.  In the meantime you can find it as follows:


And to go with these ties, a shirt has developed that—again, with a great many variations in styling, material, colors, and patterns—nevertheless generally preserves a fairly unified gestalt.  This, the dress shirt, has buttons down the middle from the top that is, the throat, to the bottom of the shirt, give or take a foot below the waist [see fig. 12].

  It has long sleeves going to the wrist, ending with cuffs that either close with a button on the shirt or with French cuffs for which the wearer must supply a pair of cuff links.

    But now back to my topic: the treatment of the male throat.  The dress shirt features a collar that goes around the neck, differing in style in width the shape of the points and the alternatives of having those points buttoned down or not.  But for all dress shirts—and remember, I have excluded formal wear—the collar serves as a sleeve for the tie, anchoring it, so to speak, around the neck.  That works, if somewhat differently, for both the four in hand and the bow tie.   If nature had produced those ties and the dress shirt, rather than designers of men’s clothes, one would step back and exclaim in wonder how the process of evolution could produce two important items (or two types, if you like) that are in perfect harmony with each other.  While I don’t know which came first, tie or shirt, I would guess that when the cravat—many types much too bulky to be harnessed by a collar—became the much more modest Victorian tie, the dress shirt was developed to hold that tie in place.  Whichever came first, tie and dress shirt go splendidly together.
   And now, after that very long introduction, to the actual point of this disquisition, the treatment of which will be quite short.
   What evolution has put together, practice, starting not all that long ago, has pulled asunder.  No longer is it the case that every businessman, every professor, every male audience member at plays and concerts, every politician—indeed every card carrying member of the middle class—wears a tie in public, as they go about their various occupations and activities.  Accordingly, no tie of neither kind, yet a dress shirt not buttoned at the throat, but open one, two, or even three buttons down.
   I agree that it is convenient, not to say lazy, to dress that way and that it effectively signals a sometimes (but only sometimes) appropriate informality.  And I confess to have myself succumbed that that fashion, with laziness the main motive. But it is ugly!  Collars are scrunched in most unaesthetic ways and not surprisingly, since they were clearly designed to go with those missing ties. The result is neither fish nor fowl.  Neither does the top of the shirt's opening come to closure in some aesthetically acceptable way, nor does does it eliminate the need for such closure.  Ugliness has become pervasive. [See fig. 13 and 14].

 Ignoring still more informal attire—meaning primarily the ubiquitous T-shirt—I can think of two solutions.  One of these is a shirt that has already built in it an aesthetically acceptable closing at the level of the throat, of which the Mandarin Collar shirt is the most prevalent example.  While, again,  designs vary a lot, what defines this shirt is a narrowish band around the neck, with or without a button in front [see fig. 15]. 

The other alternative is the Open Neck Shirt.  However varied it may be in other details, it has a collar with an open V at the center, revealing throat and perhaps a bit of chest, making a tie most inappropriate [see fig. 16 and 17].

   Both of these solutions come with a two-fold inconvenience that is in effect implied by the account already given.  If you want to start the afternoon, say, to wear a tie to the office and subsequently go to a place where a tie not needed, my de rigueur recommendation requires changing shirts.  And to add insult to injury, the correctly attired gentleman will need to pay for two sets of shirts for daily wear: one suitable for a tie and one correct without one.  It’s not news that being well dressed calls for an effort and requires an outlay of a bit more cash.  Until they come up with a shirt that is truly appropriate when worn with or without a tie and until men’s fashion adopts it as a norm, the man who wants to be well dressed will have to put up with this twofold inconvenience.  But that is nothing compared to what women must do just to come close to being in fashion!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Così fan tutte: Some Miscellaneous Observations
Rudolph H. Weingartner
   While I am working at getting a longer text with a lot of pictures into my blog—not as simple as one might think—here are some comments prompted by hearing and seeing yesterday’s (April 25, 2014) Met HD performance in Mexico City’s Auditorio.

   To begin with, it was a splendid performance in every way: sung exceedingly well by singers who looked their parts, masterfully conducted by James Levine; the performance was briskly staged on serviceable, handsome sets.  A great pleasure from beginning to end.  I had seen Così only once before—at the Met about thirty years ago.  I had never listened to a cd or watched a DVD of the opera, nor, until rummaging around on the internet during the last hour or so, have I read much of anything about it.  While I know Don Giovanni well and the Nozze di Figaro very well (though neither as well as the Zauberflöte), I was quite ignorant about what I was about to see—given only a vague memory of that long-ago experience—except for knowing a broad outline of the plot.  So herewith some observations, most of them quite mundane and surely none of them original—except subjectively.
   It’s quite a long opera, close to 3 ½ hours, not counting the intermission.  While itself that’s not so remarkable for an opera, it adds up to a lot of singing for the performers.  There are only six singers a very minimal part for a chorus and no passages at all  for the orchestra alone.  All six of them have large parts, though my impression (and that’s all it is) is that the biggest roles are that of the two sisters who wind up doing as all women do.  This compares with a bit shorter Figaro, with a cast of  five principals, plus three or four non-trivial secondary roles and another sprinkle of minor parts, with also more work given to the chorus.  (I might add, parenthetically, that without advancing the story most efficiently by means of recitatives—rather than arias--these operas would have to be much longer,)
   There are of course numerous solo arias for each of the six members of the cast, but I was particularly struck by the prevalence of ensembles—from duets to sextets—maybe a higher ratio than in Figaro or Don Giovanni.  And about those ensembles, I particularly noted that—not surprisingly—Mozart didn’t shy away from “unmixed” groupings, so to speak: duets or trios for just men or ditto for women.  Given his remarkable skill, you come to think that Mozart could write a sextet for six sopranos and have each individual voice noted as a character.
   Now for a couple of “higher” things. When you look at the outline of the libretto, the plot of Così is pretty mechanical.  I was nor surprised that I could find no equivalent of Beaumarchais, the eminence grise of Figaro, when I looked for a pre-history of Così.  It seems that Da Ponte was on his own.  Well, I think that Da Ponte was genius librettist (and ultimately a professor at my alma mata, Columbia) but he was not an experienced “author,” in the sense of originating tales of his own concoction.  Nevertheless, he seems to have devised one with Così, if a somewhat sparse, mechanical one.
   Enter Mozart.  The only term I can think of: he humanized the cartoon figures that Da Ponte provided.  The women are not just sexual creatures; the men are not just predators.  It is primarily Mozart’s music that converts stick figures into human beings.  No doubt, the dubious history of Così is partially rooted in the “risqué” character of the libretto: it didn’t become widely performed until well into the 20th century.  But now, that we have gotten over that prudishness, it still isn’t in the class of the Marriage­­­ or the Don.  Why not?  The thinness of the plot—herewith a simplistic explanation—does not give Mozart an opportunity to write more Hits of the Mozartian Canon.  There is no La cidarem la mano; no Se vuol ballare—a particular favorite of mine; just a lot of beautiful music, but nothing that you can easily hum after one hearing or two.

   A final comment.  I got tears in my eyes (a general weakness of mine), when at just the right moment near the end, eight or so of the bars are played of the march theme that accompanied the two suitors when they were off on their fake trip to the army.  They were coming back!  That brief theme signaled that the emotional level would be deepened for the opera’s dénouement, until it would lighten up  again for the brief de rigueur cheerful finale.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

                                                                   Dropping Names
Rudolph H. Weingartner
Note: I submitted this piece—slightly edited since then—to Granta, a publication that does biographical pieces.  They were not interested: OK by me.  But did they have to take three days less than a full year to let me know?

   I am living in sedate retirement and am unlikely to meet famous people.  So if I now tell about those I have encountered, it will surely be a complete list.  The admissions ticket is simple: anyone for whom The New York Times has published an obituary or for someone, happily still alive, who might confidently be expected to appear in those pages.  My life was not spent among Important People nor did I seek them out, making this an account of encounters that occurred in the normal course of things, often by happenstance.  The order in which I mention these prominent persons is roughly the order in which I met them.  But I will be quite loose as to what I consider to be an encounter.
   My very first big shot was hardly an encounter.  On some day in 1937 or ‘38 and unbeknownst to my parents, I mingled in the crowd on the Brückenstraße in Heidelberg, where I was born a decade earlier.  Had they known where I was headed they would have made me stay at home.  Jewish boys were not to roam around the city in Nazi Germany.  The crowd was there in expectation of important personages to be driving toward the city’s center.  They came, not at slow parade speed, but not just whizzing by either.  It was thus quite possible for me (and my considerably more enthusiastic sidewalk companions) to recognize Adolf Hitler in the back seat of the second or third open vehicle.  Not an actual meeting, as I said: the Reichskanzler—better known as the Führer—and I did not even wave to each other.
   Hitler got his Times obituary all right.  I hope that many years will pass before that fate befalls my second distinguished personage.  How I met her requires an explanation.  My father’s business was selling what used to be called “druggist sundries” to New York area drug stores—namely, brushes of many different kinds, sun glasses, combs and hairnets (believe it or not) and much more.  Especially early after our arrival in the US, I often delivered small packages of such merchandise to his customers to save postage.  Not during school hours, of course.  One such trip—circa 1943 or ‘44—took  me to the Park View Pharmacy near Orchard Beach.  The daughter, a year or so younger, was not delivering prescriptions when I showed up, so I got to meet Cynthia Ozick.  Moreover, I must have been untypically daring that day since I asked her for a date.
   That story, alas, is brief, with a wistful ending that New Yorkers remembering those days will understand.  Properly brought up boys and girls did not then meet in front of Radio City Music Hall, say, or the Roxy.  Instead, the boy traveled to the home of the girl, squired her to the movies and a soda and accompanied her back to her home before returning to his own.  I did that: from Jackson Heights in the borough of Queens to Pelham Bay way up in the Bronx; from the Ozick home we went to the Times Square area in Manhattan for the evening’s entertainment.  Movie seen and milkshake consumed, it was back down into the subway to ride up to the Bronx and from there via Manhattan back home to Queens.  A subway ride then cost a nickel, so that was not a burden.  But neither my patience nor my homework obligations, could afford the many hours spent traveling underground.  I think Cynthia Ozick and I got along just fine, but whether a relationship might have blossomed was never tested.  Geography and custom confined us to that single date.  While I have since read some of her essays, we never met again in the seventy or so years since that evening.
   The time was at most two years later; the setting was radically different.  Promptly after graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, in 1945, I went into the Navy.  While the war ended during my stint in boot camp, I was next assigned to a few weeks of preliminary schooling, as the first step toward learning to repair radars, devices that had only recently been deployed.  (I soon signed out of that program and became a crew member on an LST.)  Luckily for me, both classes and living quarters were on Chicago’s Navy Pier that juts out in into the lake from the very heart of the city.  It was also a quite manageable walk to the home of Chicago Opera, a short-lived but grand chapter of opera in the Second City.  Having been bitten by the classical music bug some years earlier, I showed up there regularly, since we were allowed out most evenings.  I saw quite a few performances without ever paying a dime.  For the folks back stage (where I went) I was a novelty and quasi-adopted: an eighteen year old in the uniform of a sailor who knew something about opera and spoke German.  (The latter mattered since some of the staff—e.g. assistant conductors—were fellow refugees from Germany or Austria.)  But now to a couple of famous persons.  I was standing at the stage door after a (much cut) performance of Parsifal, when the conductor emerged, to stand near the door to wait for his cab.  I had the nerve to introduce myself to Bruno Walter, who promptly asked, “sind Sie verwandt mit Felix Weingartner?”  Are you related to Felix W.? –a revered conductor who had died a few years before.  The answer was “Nein, das bin ich nicht;” I’m not, but we made further insignificant conversation until his ride arrived.  I was thrilled and tried not to show it.  After all, he was the conductor whose many recordings I admired, not the least that of the first act of Walküre with the soloists, Lotte Lehmann and Lauritz Melchior, I had heard at the Met (still on 38th Street) a couple of years earlier.
   But by then the singers (who had had to get out of their costumes) started coming out.  One of them was Martial Singher, a Frenchman who, untypically, sang Wagner—that evening Amfortas and quite wonderfully.  I do not remember how we got connected, but we did to such a degree that Singher told me to come along to have dinner with him.  We talked, among other topics, about the family of the woman he had recently married, Margareta, the daughter of Fritz Busch, the conductor, who was the brother of Adolf Busch, the violinist, who was the father of Irene, who had married Rudolf Serkin ten years earlier.  Gossip ended when we moved to his hotel suite, where he let me listen in as he was studying the role of Golaud, with the score of Pelleas open, singing sotto voce.  The treat ended when it was time for me to get back to my naval environment, where meeting Bruno Walter and Martial Singher would not have served as an excuse for being late. 
   While it was a long stride in a very short time from a high school date to that operatic intermezzo while in the Navy, the next chapter arrived equally soon and was just as different.  I met Carl Hovde when we were taking placement exams in January of 1946, after we had been admitted to Columbia College which had allowed in two hundred Veterans in the middle of the academic year.  Who is or was Carl Hovde, you ask; and while I sympathize with your puzzlement, Carl was indeed accorded a New York Times obituary, picture and all.  And deservedly so, since, from being a professor of American literature at Columbia, he was appointed dean of the College by consensus, a rare event, near the end of the Columbia student turmoil in the spring of 1968, since Carl was a major force in the restoration of peace and common sense to the campus.
   But back to these pre-freshman exams: we became close friends just about instantly and spent much time with each other on and off campus, often hanging out at the New School for Social Research of which his father was president.  We became so well known as a duo that both of us were awarded Adam Leroy Jones traveling fellowships that took us to Europe after graduation.  Before graduation, however, when we took the de rigueur oral final exams of the Colloquium of Great Books, Lionel Trilling sat in, since he was curious who these guys were who had copped these prestigious awards.  That half hour or so allows me to drop the name of that famous person: renowned teacher and seminal critic.
   While I did not take the course that Trilling taught with Jacques Barzun, I did take Barzun’s cultural history seminar the first year he offered it, having survived the interview he used to select a dozen or so seniors.  In an opening discussion we picked (or were led to pick) the period around the turn of the 19th to 20th century.  The seminar was interesting and genuine fun, bristling with freewheeling arguments by a bunch of bright people.  Two more lasting benefits: I learned more about writing in that course—from Barzun’s comments on my papers—than I had in the composition courses I had taken earlier.  Further, I was flattered that Barzun, a prodigious author, with several books on musical topics, liked one of my papers—about Gebrauchsmusik as a Reaction to the 19th century—that he saw to it that it was published: my first publication.  We subsequently became quite friendly and corresponded about a variety of topics, though I never mustered the nerve to visit him many years later in San Antonio where he died at the age of 104.
   Of course other Columbia professors of mine were accorded New York Times obituaries, but I will spare the reader my explanations as to why they deserved them.  Two Greats gave talks at Columbia during my years there, but then not being into famous people, I foolishly went to hear neither John Dewey nor Bertrand Russell.  I did attend a lecture by a saintly Martin Buber without understanding anything he said.  Finally, I had two quasi-encounters with Dwight Eisenhower, then Columbia’s president.  For reasons unknown to me, he came over to Hamilton Hall, a classroom building, where we briefly shared a corridor and I found out that he was quite a bit shorter than I was.  (I’ve shrunk since.)  Our second quasi-relationship consists of the fact that Eisenhower signed my bachelor’s degree, the only words on that certificate not in Latin.  I once inquired how much that signature is worth in the autograph market and was told a disappointing fifty cents.  That was a long time ago; maybe inflation has tripled its value in the interim.
   Neither my New York years nor my extended sojourn in San Francisco made me acquainted with people who have names worth dropping.  (I spent two years as a fellow in Mortimer Adler’s Institute for Philosophical Research, but notwithstanding his New York Times obituary, familiarity had bred disrespect.)  I later taught philosophy at San Francisco State, but I left for Vassar before S. I. Hayakawa became famous or, as I prefer, infamous, as the agent of Governor Ronald Reagan in squelching student initiatives, many of which were adopted after the turbulence had subsided.
   To be sure, my six years at Vassar brought me in contact with quite a few distinguished professors—there was a generous budget for visiting speakers—only one of them, as I recall it, was familiar to people outside the academy.  As chairman of philosophy, I had lunch with Hannah Arendt the day she gave a talk at Vassar.  Since of her many writings, I had only read her New Yorker account of the Eichmann trial, that’s what we talked about, when I wasn’t answering questions about Vassar.  I had found myself in considerable agreement with her concept and analysis of the views she expressed under the heading of the banality of evil and, as a fellow Holocaust evader (as I refer to those of us who got out), spoke very positively about Eichmann in Jerusalem. I don’t know whether it helped or hindered that I was blissfully unaware of the many criticisms that had been lodged against her. 
   Let me conclude the Vassar chapter with another quasi-encounter.  I saw Meryl Streep, then a Vassar student, perform in Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy, Ah Wilderness!
   In 1974 I left Vassar to become dean of the college of arts and sciences at Northwestern University, a stint that lasted thirteen years.  I followed Hanna Gray in that job, giving that college the distinction, probably unique, of being led by two deans in a row who were born in Heidelberg am Neckar.  Needless to say, in that job I came in contact with many professors and administrators, in my own shop and at other institutions, who were or will be accorded recognition in the Newspaper of Record.  But even when a book or discovery escapes from its academic confines into a broader world, professorial distinction does not necessarily blossom into the kind of fame that justifies name dropping.  There were, however, frail links between me and the scientists of double helix renown: Watson and Crick.  From the former I received a letter of recommendation for a young scientist we wanted to hire—the shortest and most effective of the many I received through the years:  “I will do everything in my power to keep Mr. X here at Cold Spring Harbor.  Sincerely, Jim Watson.”  And of course he did.
  Francis Crick was a friend of one of our biochemists and visited to talk to students, faculty, and such privileged people as I was.  All he did these days, he told me, is talk.  He spends most of the day in a pleasant room in the Salk Institute (how could a room in that great Louis Kahn complex not be pleasant?) and scientists young and old come to visit him with their problems.  Others later told me that Crick was remarkable in that role, almost always coming up with fruitful suggestions.  As the edge of scientific originality wanes, scientific wisdom may well wax; and so it was with Sir Francis.
   I had a more significant relationship to another scientist, who became famous after I left Northwestern.  I was the dean who offered a job to Rick Silverman, two years after he received his PhD in chemistry and two years after I became dean.  While he was promoted to full professor under my aegis, it was in 2004, almost two decades after I had left, that Rick developed pregabalin, a drug marketed under the name of Lyrica.  I will let you look up all that the drug is good for.  That it is good for plenty is testified by the fact that its “sales reached a record $3.063 billion in 2010” and that Richard Bruce Silverman was awarded a slew of prices and distinctions.  Now on the NU campus stands the formidable Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics, paid for by some of the Lyrica royalties that went to Northwestern and to Rick. 
   But let me now go to back to the beginning of my deanship, since before the end of my first year I had met Newton Minow, famous for his speech, more than a decade earlier, declaring television to be a vast wasteland.  Yes, famous: Google that phrase and be astonished!
   I had resolved to establish a senior convocation for the College of Arts and Sciences, just as there were for all the other Evanston schools.  There had not been such, because the only space big enough for the Evanston campus’s largest school was the gymnasium, where the graduation ceremony for the entire university took place, featuring awards of honorary degrees to the famous; graduation speakers were left to school convocations.  My solution was to have our own event in the same gymnasium, but, faut de mieux, after the graduation ceremony—a bit late and posing a few awkward logistical problems, but doable.  Since the go ahead came close to D-Day, I was grateful that Newton, an NU trustee, was suggested as a convocation speaker.  When we relaxed afterwards at a late lunch in our house, he asked me for a copy of my introduction, so he could send it to his mother.  He gave a good graduation speech—not at all an easy genre—and I gave him a good send-off, a much easier task.
   I want to mention two others who came to speak at the College’s graduation ceremony—the first for a kind of heroism and the second for being a real dud.  We were able to recruit Robert McFarlane, President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, because a daughter or niece of his was a Northwestern student.  Tradition had it that the speaker would have dinner the night before with the student board that had selected him.  As a result of the evening’s discussion, Mr. McF. spent most of the night rewriting his speech.  I never found out details at the—also traditional—late lunch at our house, but I greatly admired his action and told him so.  Buckminster Fuller was that unfortunate second famous speaker.  He insisted on using a lavalier microphone, which hung around his neck as he walked back and forth on the improvised stage.  He spoke all right, but adding the acoustics in the gymnasium to his mode of delivery, nobody understood a word he said.    
   Even more tenuous was my connection to the next entrant.  The college had received an endowment in the early 70’s to bring women of accomplishment to the campus, either for a substantial conference, or for a quarter as visiting professor.  I was then attempting to improve studio arts at Northwestern and thought of using those funds to bring Louise Bourgeois to campus, having come to greatly admire her work.  I could offer her studio space and some support, while requiring few duties except to be there.  I screwed up my courage to call her up, but to no avail.  We had a conversation of twenty minutes or so during which I listened to the most charming French accent.  She was flattered, etcetera  (her real fame came later), but she simply could not see leaving her New York studio.
   I was much more successful with Ed Paschke, to whom I was introduced by friends who were collectors of his paintings.  Right away I took to the daringness of his work and was surprised, when I met him, that he would consider not only a faculty position, but that he was also agreeable to head the department, at least for a while.  The flamboyance of his painting contrasted sharply with his gentle demeanor, not to mention his straight and firm thinking as departmental chairman.  The one work of his that I own is a delightful print entitled Execo, commissioned by a Chicago young executives organization, who, lacking both a sense of humor and self-awareness, were said to have been incensed by the product of their commission.  If Ed Paschke is a new name for you, read the wonderful Times obituary by Roberta Smith.
   My next prominent person, the author of more than forty books on a considerable variety of subjects, needs no introduction; I will only recount how we became friends. (I can’t resist making a couple of exceptions to my resolve not to include good friends.)  A group of humanities faculty at Northwestern had launched a new program, entitled American Culture.  Shortly afterwards, the Henry R. Luce Foundation granted us a Luce professorship as part of their effort to support interdisciplinary education. The committee I appointed to recommend possible candidates did a remarkable thing: they presented me with five names without ranking them.  I never found out whether they couldn’t agree or whether they generously intended to leave me unfettered.  Since I greatly admired one of the proposed candidates—having read many of his pieces in the New York Review of Books—I promptly got in touch with Garry Wills and was delighted to find out that he was interested.  A visit to the NU campus followed with all the trimmings and before he left for home in Baltimore, we amiably agreed on terms in our living room.  Garry and I have been friends ever since and for some years we were two of three couples that preceded our Thursday subscriptions to the Chicago Symphony with drinks and dinner at the original Berghoff—dry martinis, solid German food, and outstanding beer on tap.
   Of the many things deans do, going to meetings is near the top of the list, a duty shared with all American bureaucrats.  Numerous such gatherings are boring, a few are tense, not many are informative or entertaining, quite a few are unnecessary, while an insufficiently large fraction accomplishes something real.  An exception to this pessimistic assessment were the annual meetings of arts and sciences deans belonging to the American Association of Universities, an organization of research universities.  The host, each December, was one of us member colleges, with institutions engaged in quiet competition as to the arrangements: food, accommodations, and modest entertainment. The best feature of these get-togethers, however, was the fact that there was no agenda.  Their unspoken purpose was to provide the collected deans with an opportunity not to be had at home.  We could bitch and complain to understanding ears about the latest irrationalities proposed by our faculties and the more recent stupidities perpetrated by our bosses.
   For practical purposes, that’s where I met Vartan Gregorian, though I knew him slightly when he came to San Francisco State College even before he received his doctorate from Stanford.  A dozen years after coming to SF State, he was appointed dean of arts and sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, the same year, 1974, I started deaning at Northwestern.  Thanks to those annual boondoggles, we became friendly and have remained in touch.
   One phone call I remember vividly.  By then (early 1981), Vartan was provost of Penn and had every reason to believe that he would follow Martin Meyerson as president of the university.  In that expectation, he told me, he had turned down the chancellorship of Berkeley.  To his shock (and that is the right word) he was passed over and Sheldon Hackney became Penn president instead.  Vartan speculated that there was trustee opposition to having someone with a foreign accent speak for the university.  It may be that after the end of the tenure of the first Jewish president of an Ivy League institution Penn needed a cooling-off period with a genuine WASP and not another “exotic” chief executive.
   The New York Public Library was the beneficiary of that Penn goof and so was I, with lunches at the Algonquin (where I never succeeded in grabbing the check) every time I came to New York. His next stint was the presidency of Brown, with a speech by Arthur Schlesinger among the classy diversions at his inauguration.  From there a return to New York and the Carnegie Corporation.  .
   I became friendly with George McGovern when he came to Evanston weekly to give a lecture course sponsored by an affluent McGovern patron.  Long ago, in 1953, he had earned a Northwestern PhD in American History and when in 1980 he was evicted from the Senate in the Reagan revolution, he was free to dip his toe once more into the academic world he had left for a career in politics.  That revolution did not make much headway with the NU student body, so that a course by so unalloyed a liberal as George McG. filled up Tech Auditorium, the largest enrollment in any course during my day.  At least when the course began, for after some time attendance began to wane.  Apparently the former Senator had begun to run out of enticing tales from the nation’s capital, without being very successful in replacing personal experience with the fruits of academic research.  A quarter of a century out of the classroom was too long a stretch.  But as a diehard liberal myself and finding him simpatico, I was an admirer; we managed to meet in Washington a few times when I went there for inevitable meetings.
  I was also a great admirer of Maria Tallchief whom I had seen dance many times with the New York City Ballet, often with André Eglevsky as partner.  How Northwestern came to award her an honorary degree I don’t know, but I was on the stage with her during graduation ceremonies in 1982 with no role to perform other than to add another academic gown to the stage.  Again I managed to screw up my courage, as I had with Bruno Walter, more than thirty-five years earlier, to walk over to her during a lull in the proceedings, to tell her how much I enjoyed her performances in the old Mecca Temple on 55th Street.
  The last Northwestern name I propose to drop arrived at that university well before I did and became truly famous years after I had left.  But while were together, I got to know Professor of Economics Dale Mortensen very well, especially since he chaired his department for a term.  Not only are economists a go-getting, not to say aggressive, bunch, the competition to hire the most talented of freshly-minted doctorates is fierce, making for extensive interactions between the departmental chairperson of such a highly-ranked department and the College’s dean.    
   Of course I knew that Dale was a much respected member of his profession who gave lectures hither and yon and published widely.  But it took twenty-three years after I left Northwestern for me to find out that “respected” was not strong enough an honorific.  For in 2010 Professor Mortensen was awarded the Nobel prize in Economics!  It was a pleasure to meet up with him when he was being honored by his doctoral alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, down the street in Pittsburgh from where I then lived.
  Truly distinguished, but also an honest fellow!  Through the years, he and I had a friendly argument, with Dale asserting that the university ought to do more to publicize the high ranking of its economics department to potential undergraduates, while I claimed that such propaganda was of interest to potential graduate students, while undergraduates were interested in a host of things, but seldom, if ever, in departmental rankings.  One day, Dale, grinning, came up to me with “you are right.”  He had squired around campus the son of a relative and his friend, to size up the place for college.  What impressed them?  The way the magic touch buttons worked in the elevator of Norris Hall, the student center.  Cool, really cool.  Alas, Dale Mortensen succumbed to cancer only a few years after becoming a Nobelist.
   My late wife, Fannia and I met Richard Brettell and his wife Caroline not long after he came to the Art Institute, in 1980, as curator of European paintings.  We have been good friends ever since.  It would take a piece as long as this one to give an account of Rick’s prodigious writings (Amazon lists twenty-two books) and whirlwind activities—as teacher, curator, administrator, critic and more.  He has been an influential force not just in the cities in which he has lived since 1980—Chicago and Dallas—but in the world of art both in this country and in France.  No slouch herself, Carol is a distinguished professor of anthropology and sometime administrator at Southern Methodist University, with five books under her belt, according to Amazon.  But all that is prestigious background to a relationship that has not much to do with all of those accomplishments.  We enjoy each others’ company, talking about whatever.
   And it was Rick who introduced me to James Magee.  In a lecture at the National Gallery—no minor platform—Rick called him the greatest unknown American artist.  I will not here describe his Hill of four buildings in the Cornudas Mountains outside El Paso; a description and more is available on the Magee Hill website and even better in the wonderful book Rick wrote about it.  The cruciform site is impressive from a distance and awesome when one steps on it and then gazes on the complex works of sculpture inside, after the tall iron doors have been open to the tune of metallic screeches.  I became active in efforts to support the Hill and Jim and I became good friends.    
   In 1987 I left Northwestern to become provost of the University of Pittsburgh.  But even before moving to that city, I had gotten to know Herbert Simon, since we had both been members of the Visiting Committee of Pitt’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  And when we moved to Pittsburgh, we came to live on his street and could see Herb walking past our house every morning on his way to his office at Carnegie Mellon University.  Herbert Simon made fundamental contributions to just about every branch of the social sciences, including to several which he invented.  Because there is no Nobel prize for polymaths, they gave him one in economics!  I was fortunate that we shared occasional meals where the real food were our conversations.  Whatever the topic, Herb’s comments were illuminating and had the obviousness of a mathematical proof after someone had the wit to work it out.  His humor, moreover, was seldom far from the surface.  I was grateful, too, for a generous blurb he wrote for one of my books.
  Professionally, my move to Pitt was a mixed bag at best.  The university’s president was probably not happy to have been more or less obliged to offer me the job, given the complicated way in which academics make administrative appointments.  We certainly turned out to have different opinions about what a Pitt—or any—provost should be doing, with the result that I resigned after two years in harness.  Those years, however, made me acquainted with Mrs. Posvar, whose professional name is Mildred Miller, mezzo-soprano at the Metropolitan Opera and my first Cherubino in the Marriage of Figaro. Now she is mostly known as Millie, the founding director of Opera Theater of Pittsburgh.  The circle is closing from Bruno Walter to Millie, who together, won the Grand Prix du Disque for Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.
   One more name to drop, with humble pleas for forgiveness from those who are deserving of this questionable honor, but whose names are not here dropped.  Forgetfulness, sloppiness, but neither rationale nor excuses.
   My final name to drop is Mariss Jansons, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1997 to 2004 and now the boss of what may now be the best orchestra there is: Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw.  I am proud that I was on the search committee that brought him from Oslo to Pittsburgh.  Mariss is a subtle, captivating, indeed endearing, musician, never eccentric, never routine and never tainted by some trademark shtick, such as extreme tempi or extravagant dynamics.  His music making indulged in neither exaggerated intensity nor in relaxedness that verged on boredom.  To my ear, Mariss is a certain kind of ideal musician, granting that there is more than one ideal.
   My good fortune was to sing in the chorus of every choral work he conducted—from Stravinsky’s  Symphony of Psalms to Schönberg’s Gurre Lieder, from the Beethoven Ninth Symphony to the Mahler Second.  And then there was Mozart’s Requiem that I had sung several times before.
   But certainly not in Carnegie Hall!  My assigned place was on the top row of the chorus’s risers, dead center, directly opposite the conductor.  The rehearsal went well; Jansons seemed satisfied.  That afternoon we ran into each other in the lobby of the hotel that housed us all.  “I heard you, I heard you,” was his greeting, pronounced with a wide grin.  That should not have been the case and happily, I knew that could not have been.  The New York Times later reported that “the huge Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh . . . sang with both an enlivening robustness and, particularly in the Lacrimosa, a sublime delicacy.”